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 | By Steve and Bridget Patton

She says: I think it’s cute our granddaughter tells me ‘secrets.’

My 13-year-old granddaughter tells me some small things about her life that she doesn’t want me to tell her mom. It’s no big deal.


He says: We should tell our daughter.

I’m concerned our daughter will find out about these little secrets and be angry. It’s a matter of trust.


The two core questions in this dilemma are:

  1. Is it healthy for an adolescent child to entrust a confidence about a minor issue to an adult other than her parents? and

  2. If she does entrust that confidence, would it be a breach of the parents’ trust in that adult if the adult were not to disclose the child’s confidence to them?

To the first question, we believe the correct answer is, generally, “yes.” While parents should provide loving and close attention to all aspects of their children’s lives, this doesn’t mean it is either their right or their duty to know every single thing going on in their children’s lives. Indeed, having a trusted adult relative in their children’s lives – one their children can turn to for “outside” advice, or even to share an innocent little secret – should be encouraged as an all-around good thing. Good for the kids, the parents and the adult relative. But there could be some exceptions to this.

For instance, it could be a sign of problems at home if even in small matters there is an element of undue fear in your granddaughter’s insistence, “Please don’t tell my mother!” Ask gentle questions such as, “Aw, why don’t you want your mom to know?” “Have you talked to her about that?” Maybe you could facilitate a conversation between them.

To the second question, we believe the correct answer is generally “no,” it would not be a breach of your daughter’s trust if you were not to disclose to her mother the minor-matter confidences your granddaughter had entrusted to you. As it says in Proverbs: “A trustworthy person keeps a confidence.” (11:13b) If your daughter were to find out about the confidences, we hope she would see it the same way.

But if your daughter were to perceive it as a breach of trust, assure her that she would have been the first to know if you had perceived the confidence to be a serious matter. And how fun for you that you are able to spend so much time with your granddaughter in her early teenage years!

Steve and Bridget Patton hold master’s degrees in theology and counseling and serve as family life ministers in the Diocese of Sacramento.

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